- Ever wonder: Can I eat French fries and lose weight?
- Understanding why you CAN eat French fries teaches you how to lose weight
- Plus, a healthy French fry recipe
When was the last time you ate French fries without feeling guilty?
Even if you didn’t worry about eating fries before, you probably gave it a little bandwidth after reading that Harvard Prof’s quote.
…You know the one!
It was splashed on newspapers around the world, from The New York Times to The Oakville Beaver:
“I think it would be nice if your meal came with a side salad and six French fries.”
– Dr. Eric Rimm, Harvard
You think it would be nice?
YOU THINK IT WOULD BE NICE!
Ummm… you know what would be nice?
If Eric understood how the information he shares is consumed by the public.
(That sounds super snarky but… I’ll explain why it gets my feathers ruffled in a moment.)
Why people wonder: Can I eat French fries and lose weight?
Six-fry-Harvard-Guy is a perfect example of Ivory Tower Evangelism.
Dr. Rimm’s position holds a lot of influence. And with power comes the responsibility to know your audience and how your scientific conclusions translate to the real world.
Can you imagine how the 5 + 1 fry rule would go down when you:
- cruise into a drive thru
- go on a first date
- or dish out food for your friends?
More pressing than Mutiny at the Burger Joint, what about the 14 year-old girl who’s trying to figure out what healthy eating actually looks like?
I was that 14-year-old girl!
And this kind of messaging drives me crazy.
I NEVER ate French fries when I was trying to lose weight
*Spoiler Alert: Tooth Fairy reveal coming up…
Over all the years I collected diet rules, tips and tricks, in an effort to patch together a comprehensive method of how to lose weight, this French fry portion guideline would’ve added to the confusion, guilt and shame I already carried around.
Because I treated every rule I read like gospel—whether it was:
- only eat fruit before noon
- just eat the white of an egg
- chew your food at least 10 times before swallowing
All these (ridiculous) rules, that are validated in magazines, normalized in movie scenes and passed around word-of-mouth… complicate the simple act of eating.I've been on a diet every day since I was nineteen, which basically means I've been hungry for a decade— Julia Roberts, Notting Hill
No wonder more than 30 million people have disordered eating—and that’s just the stats for The States.
When I was 14 I would’ve applied this tiny-portion guideline to other foods too, in the same way you can conclude that Santa Claus doesn’t exist after you discover there’s no tooth fairy.
(That was the hard truth that slowly sunk in when I was lying in bed and saw someone I knew putting a couple coins under my pillow.)
Dieters excel at deductive reasoning
I was so desperate to lose weight and get on with my life that I searched for a-n-y information that could help me crack the weight-loss code. (That’s why you’re here, right?)
And I was eager to apply what I learned to other food choices. I wanted to find all the rules I needed to follow!
So believing I should only eat 6 French fries would cause me to cut back on other foods too.
That was my modus operandi for the 10 years I was caught in the starve-binge-purge cycle.
…Until I realized there really is no mystery around how to lose weight.
Weight-loss does NOT require:
- willpower, sacrifice or discipline
- rules, tips or tricks
- battles (of the bulge), wars (on weight) or fighting (fat)…
Isn’t all the diet language just so bloody combative?
Yes! Because diets are about punishing your body.
Reaching your H 🙂 PPY weight is about being kind to your body.
Your body wants to be a healthy weight because it’s easier on all your organs.
Work with your body.
Another spoiler and this one’s about French fries
Here’s why you can stop asking: Can I eat French fries and lose weight?
Lots of people who are a healthy weight eat a regular serving of French fries.
And guess what?
You can too!
How I discovered the answer to: Can I eat French fries and lose weight?
When I first met Alex in June of 1999, I’d just broken the starve-binge-purge cycle for good (a few weeks earlier on April 28th.) And I was eating 3 ROUGHLY balanced meals a day made MOSTLY of whole foods. And ROUGHLY balanced snacks made MOSTLY of whole foods when I was hungry between meals.
But… I was still scared to eat most things.
Here’s what I ate in the weeks leading up to meeting Alex—
In the morning before heading to my teaching placement I’d get a latte, orange and egg on an English Muffin at a place called Manhattans beside Tavistock Square in central London.
Then I’d walk to the primary school where I was doing a placement as a teacher candidate. On my way I’d buy an apple, banana and fresh bun to eat at lunch, from a little sandwich shoppe near Caledonian Road—a few kilometers north of Kings Cross Station. I kept a jar of PB at school. (This was before peanut allergies were so common and teachers could consume that sticky substance at school.)
I love peanut butter & banana sandwiches.
On the way home I’d go back to Manhattans (never having been to New York) and buy a small cookie and another latte (the gateway drink to coffee) and then settle in for a few hours of work. Some of it was school work. And some was writing. I was working on a fictional book about a girl, oh, around my age, who had an eating disorder (!)
I NEVER dreamed I’d actually tell anyone that “she” was me…
Then I’d head to dinner—the cafeteria in the basement of my residence, John Adams Hall, where I’d assemble a protein, a starch and lots and lots of fibrous food on a plate. Like the daily salad and any other veg in the rectangular steel steamers. And I’d also grab a glass of milk.
…All that to tell you that every day I basically ate the same 3 meals.
I was afraid to eat anything else!
That is, until I met Alex.
Alex taught me I can eat French fries and be my HAPPY weight
When Alex ate an omelet, I ate an omelet.
When Alex added ketchup, I added ketchup.
So… you see where I’m going with this parallel sentence structure. But I have to stop there. My SEO gets dinged when I write more than 2 consecutive sentences that start with the same word.
Role modelling after someone who has a healthy relationship with food taught me to:
- be more flexible (it’s ok to eat condiments!)
- add variety (I still 💜 you Manhattan’s!)
- enjoy previously forbidden foods (like French fries!)
The first time I ate French fries…
One night when I was at Alex’s house, years before Dr. Rimm’s 6-fry reco, Alex thought oven chips would go down well with whatever we were eating.
So I shut down my bossy inner voice telling me not to eat French fries (a voice I’d dutifully followed for the previous decade.) Then I, as the Brits say: tucked into a plate of chips that were part of a balanced meal.
And the next morning my pants still fit.
I was no longer afraid to eat French fries.
Why you can eat French fries without gaining weight
If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know I preach the Gr. 2 curriculum:
Meet your body’s nutritional needs!
Eat ROUGHLY balanced meals made MOSTLY of whole foods
& ROUGHLY balanced snacks made MOSTLY of whole foods
between meals when you’re hungry.
Then you can cut up a t-shirt to sew onto a jean jacket, listen to your algebra teacher or really smell the flowers when you take your dog for a walk.
In other words, when you eat like you give a d*mn about yourself, you can enjoy life between meals because you ain’t hungry.
(I threw in that ain’t to make sure you’re awake.)
And the easiest way to take this healthy eating approach on the road, is to visualize a photo that makes a recurring cameo here on my blog:
So when I build a meal I put these food groups on my plate in the above proportions.
Then I eat.
It took me 10 years to realize eating can be so easy.
Oh, and here’s an example of that t-shirt jean jacket. I’m obsessed with jean jackets:
View this post on Instagram
Focusing on your interests helps you #loseweịght I got this #jeanjacket from the @salvationarmyus & this #basquiat #picture (previously a tank top) from @thekindexchange & I got the idea from @closetsketches book #50waystoweardenim Page 66 to 67. The cut-out #drawing look of this #dinosaur is an ode to the incredibly talented Lauren Friedman's #artwork including her book #50waystowearascarf I still need to learn to #sew so I took my #jacket and #tank #top down to my local drycleaners and they did the handy work. Thanks #whitedovecleaners on #King Street in #Toronto. When you focus on your #interests you avoid getting #lostinthedetails Which makes it #easier to reach a #healthyweight. #iloveart #streetstyle #weightlossjourney #lifelessons #ihatewaste #natural
Your body WANTS to be a healthy weight.
So work with your body by meeting its needs!
When it comes to starches, the choices are endless!
Sometimes I eat pasta.
Sometimes I eat bread. Even Bog-standard white bread.
Depending on the time of day it might be steel-cut oats.
But when it comes to dinner, at least a couple times a week, Alex and I eat potatoes.
Potato dishes like:
baked potatoes with full-fat sour cream,
or potatoes made into French fries.
We eat them all!
As long as the potato dish of our choice (or whatever starch we’re eating) is part of a balanced meal in a similar proportion to The Eatwell Guide I know I’ll meet my body’s needs.
I was 30 pounds overweight when I didn’t eat French fries
The whole time I was overweight I was scared to eat more than a few tiny boiled potatoes—hold the butter… Much less French fries! And 6 French fries? For real, that would have been pushing it. (Remember, I was afraid to eat more than half a banana!)
Or… I was so hungry I’d “break my diet” and eat waaay too many fries. Now I know restricting and then eventually bingeing (because you’re so hungry!) really confuses your body.
Putting your body through extremes slows down your metabolism and then it goes into survival mode. And that’s when it’s easy to gain weight and really tough to lose it. These days I make the Goldilocks-happy-medium choice* because it’s always Just Right.
*Happy-medium choices look like any of the potato dishes I listed above when they’re part of a balanced meal.
There’s so many French fries to choose from!
The key is what Alex taught me (without realizing!) all those years ago.
You can eat anything if you factor in variety, moderation and being flexible.
You can have curly fries.
The bottom line is that as long as you’re eating a variety of starches made MOSTLY of whole foods over the course of each week (pasta, potatoes, rice, etc. prepared whatever way) and eat them as part of a ROUGHLY balanced meal or snack, the type of potato you choose is no big deal.
So YES! You can eat French fries from a fast-food restaurant.
Just don’t do it every day.
My favorite kind of French fries are called Marianne’s fries
They’re named after Alex’s mum’s friend.
This recipe is an uber-healthy carbohydrate (starch!) option that’s made of one-ingredient foods.
In other words, it’s a potato dish that combines whole foods (the kind of food that works best with your body) and therefore helps you fill up naturally. Like you naturally know when to stop eating because you feel full.
Whereas processed foods are loaded with food coloring, preservatives, sugar and other additives which confuse your body and make you want to keeeeeeep eating.
Here’s an easy French fry recipe to keep in your back pocket to make part of a quick, healthy meal. Or impress people at at a dinner party. (Just make sure you allot more than 6 fries per person, ok?)
Recipe: Marianne’s French fries
Step 1: Oven
Turn on your oven to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6.
Put a baking or roasting tray inside to heat up with the oven.
Step 2: Pick yer taters (!)
How many potatoes do you and your family usually eat?
Choose the same number you’d use to make mash potatoes, roasted potatoes, jacket potatoes or any other type of potato dish you enjoy. In other words, everyone who’s eating should have enough potatoes to fill about 1/3 of their dinner plate.
(Potatoes are carbohydrates and make up 1/3 of a meal.)
Step 2: Wash
Give ’em a scrub and pat them dry like you would for any other po-tay-toe dish.
Step 3: Cut
Slice into wedges. Do you prefer thick or thin? Cut your spuds so they’re all similar in size.
Keep the potato skins on!
They’re full of fiber and nutrients. Potato skins are so so so good for you. They also taste great. If this concept feels foreign, try peeling just half the potatoes so you can start to get used to the taste of packed-with-nutrients potato skins.
Step 4: Dress those bad boyz
Pour on a little olive oil. I just eye ball it. To give you some idea, we probably use about a tablespoon of olive oil per 3 medium potatoes. Sprinkle on some sea salt. Then shake them all about (or use a wooden spoon) so the oil is evenly distributed.
Remember: Naturally higher-fat food, like olive oil or an egg yolk is part of a balanced meal. (Natural is the magic word when it comes to eating fat.)
Step 6: Cook ’em
Take the hot tray out of the oven and empty the French soon-to-be-fried potatoes onto the tray. Spread them out evenly and pop them back into the inferno.
When they’re half way to your desired crispiness, take them out and flip ’em.
We LOVE super-crisp, kinda-dry fries. So we bake our medium-wedged Marianne French Fries in the oven for about 25 minutes total. So that’d be a flip somewhere around the 15 minute mark.
Step 7: Enjoy
Personally I love the salty olive oil taste but sometimes I dip them in ketchup (though I find ketchup tastes sugary, lately) or I make a half-mayo & half-Sriracha sauce mix to give them a little kick.
So the answer to: Can I eat French fries and lose weight is…
Yes. Yes. And yes.
Just put them on your plate to match the Eatwell Guide carb proportion and you’re good to go.
For instance, here’s a ROUGHLY balanced meal made MOSTLY of whole foods I ate recently (first BBQ of the year):
I’m not a food photographer (that goes without saying!) But I just wanted to include a photo so you have a rough idea of how much you can eat. (That wonky green plate is big!)
This dinner is similar to what I ate when I was back at my halls of residence in England, all those years ago:
CARB: Marianne’s French fries
VEGETABLE: Salad & some radishes I found in the fridge
DAIRY: Parmesan on the Caesar salad
FAT: Homemade salad dressing, olive oil on the French fries and natural fat in the sausage
Except now I’m more flexible, eat a wider variety of foods within each food group and enjoy food like French fries in moderation.
Make Today Count
Enjoy your fish ‘n chips + salad.
Or your vegi-cheese omelet and home fries.
Or any other combination that includes potato prepared in any way.
Make Marianne’s French fries part of your balanced meal made mostly of whole foods, tonight!
Grab a few potatoes, olive oil and salt and you’re ready to roll.
Build healthy eating and exercise habits. A healthy weight will follow.
Whether you eat French fries at fast food joints every day or you’ve not touched carbs for years, you can turn your present habits into healthy habits. If you’re a little nervous about trying Marianne’s French fries or another kind of potato dish, invite a friend over who has a healthy relationship with food to cook and eat them with you. Asking for help is a strength.
When we were youngsters… I had NO idea how to eat because of all the punish-your-body diet info out there, like, A Tale of Six French fries. Written by Dr. Rimm & distributed by every outlet around the world.
It really was the WORST of times (my disordered eating made my life fall apart and I was afraid there was no way to put it back together) and the BEST of times! (Experiencing coming back to life by eating healthy food and being kind to my body felt like getting let out of jail. I saw the world with fresh eyes, appreciated the smallest things and suddenly had free time to go out because I wasn’t sitting in my dorm room writing out new diets… and that’s when I met Alex!)
Ok, so that’s a pretty loose tie-in between this song and this post but…
Tonight I was walking with one of the loves of my life, my 14-year-old dog Rocky (who I worry about every day).
Update August 2021: Rocky’s 15.5 now!
We were on walk #3 because he, like all dogs! LOVES being out on the toooown. Oh ya! Even with his aggressive arthritis 🙁 When we walked by a bar called Marben on Wellington – the prettiest street in Toronto, I think—all old brick buildings that they’re ripping down… this song was escaping the open doors and floating into the quiet, empty street. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard some night life (Victoria Memorial Square, across the street from our home, is usually hopping 24-7). Like a moth to flame I found myself inside this bistro pub. Rocky was invited too! (Dogs act like everyone owns everything and everyone can go anywhere. Tonight he was right.) I heard this song years ago but couldn’t catch the lyrics to Google when I got home. So I had to ask because I wanted to play it for you.
(We stayed at least 2 meters away from the friendly host at the front desk.)
Do you eat balanced meals?
I hope so!
If so… do you eat potatoes? What kind of potatoes? I’d love to hear how you prepare them.
Let me know in the comments below.
And remember, you can eat French fries and lose weight.
You'll also be subscribed to my newsletter. Don’t like it? Unsubscribe in one click
You'll also be subscribed to my newsletter. Don’t like it? Unsubscribe in one click
Sharing what I learned makes the 10 years I STRUGGLED worth it
If anyone’s ever asked you: Can I eat French fries and lose weight? Please share this post!